The history of Granada is somewhat distinctive from most of Spain. Lying just a couple of hundred kilometers from Morocco, this part of Spain has experienced the best of the Moorish era. The way of living in this part of the country, its architecture and culture, still blatantly reflects its quintessential Andalusian roots. Granada’s Alhambra is a prime example and a testament to its origins.
Within the limits of Alhambra is the Alcazaba, a walled fortification meant for the rulers and their subjects. According to some sources, Alhambra’s Alcazaba was said to be built around the 11th century. This later became the last Moorish stronghold, and as such, is at the center of historical attention. It is also a bustling tourist attraction. So if you plan to visit the Alcazaba at Alhambra, make sure you book your tickets in advance.
Alcazaba Granada – History Under a Minute
History dictates that there was some sort of construction already present at the current Alcazaba site before it was transformed into the structure we see today. There are contradictory historical accounts regarding the final additions to the Alcazaba. The Broken Tower (Torre Quebrada), the Keep (Torre del Homenaje), and the WatchTower (Torre de la Vela) were subsequently added to shape it into a stronghold.
The king, Mohammed I is said to have initially established a residence there and was succeeded by his son, Mohammed II who lived there for a short while too. After the palaces were completed, the Alcazaba was used exclusively for military purposes. When the Christians subsequently took over, they carried out restorative work on the structure and transformed it into the state prison. Until the late 19th century, the Alcazaba lay unattended and since then different parts of the Alcazaba were explored and restored to the current state.
Tour of the Alcazaba Granada
Tower of the Cube
As you enter face the fortress from the Plaza de Los Aljibes, there are three towers. The center one Torre Quebrada stands overlooking the main entrance. To its right is the Torre del Homenaje or Broken Tower. which overlooks the Torre del Cubo. To the left the Torre del Adarguero is harder to make out as the hollow tower as it is also called has been partly demolished.
You will enter the dry moat of the Alcazaba beneath the Torre Quebrada, turn right and head up the steps at the end to ascend to the Tower if the Cube. The tower is a defensive artillery bastion, built by the Catholic Monarchs, over the top of and sealing up the Puerta de la Tahona or Gate of the Bakery.
From here there are great views over Granada and the Alhambra. As you look out to the left you can see the Camino de Ronda leading to the Puerta de las Armas at the base of the Torre de las Armas. On the other side you have probably the best views over the Palacio del Mexuar and the Madrasa de los Príncipes and the Patio de Machuca. Along the battlements towards the Palacio Nazaríes you can see the Torre de Mohamed.Read more about the Torre del Cubo
The Arms Square
Head back down the steps and around the Torre del Homenaje to enter the Plaza de las Armas or the Arms Square. This area was the main mustering grounds of the castle and it was also called the Barrio Castrense or Military Quarters of the Castle as it housed its soldiers and servants. Just where you entered you can head up the steps to get a better view. The low walls are the foundations of the buildings that used to stand here.
You can walk along the northern battlements. The first tower you walk on is called the Torre del Criado del Doctor Ortiz or Tower of the Servant of Doctor Ortiz , followed by the Torre de Alquiza and the final tower being the tower overlooking the Torre de las Armas. There are great views on the defenses below, the area between the wall you are currently on and the outer curtain wall was called the Camino de Ronda and went all around the Alhambra.
Head back the way you came and descend to the Arms Square to wander among the ruins. Scattered around are the remains of a rainwater cistern, barracks, baths. The circular stairs at the foot of the Torre Quebrada, which descending into the ground lead to a dungeon.
As you head towards the Torre de la Vela you should turn to your right and head out to the Torre de las Armas.Read more about the Plaza de las Armas
Tower of the Arms
As you cross to the far end of the Torre de las Armas, to your left you can see the small defensive tower called the Torre de los Hidalgos or Tower of the Nobles. The Torre de las Armas stands above the Puerta de las Armas, which would have been main access gate to the Alhambra in the early days of the Nasrid period. It gets its name as the visitors to the Alhambra would need to leave their weapons at the gate below.
There are not only great views over Granada, but also of the Alcazaba. You can look back at the Tower of the Cube, standing over the Gate of the Bakery, and behind you at the Torre de la Vela. If you look over the north side of the tower you should be able to make out the ruins of another tower by the river. This was the Puerta de los Tablero or Gate of the Boards, a bridge over the river which had a water gate. The bridge had a damming mechanism that could store water and then flood the channel below in times of attack. There would have been a defensive wall connecting the Puerta de los Tablero with the Tower of Arms.
Head back the way you came and follow signs to the Torre de la Vela.Read more about the Torre de las Armas
The Candle Tower
There is a little climb up a spiral staircase to climb through the four floors of the tower get to the top, but it is well worth it. It is a very recognizable feature at the Alcazaba owing to its flags and the bell tower. Originally and as a defensive element, it had battlements on its terrace, which were lost during earthquakes.
The tower gets its name from its Bell, called La Vela, which was brought with the Catholic Monarchs took Granada.
Enjoy the spectacular views from the top before heading back down.Read more about the Torre de la Vela
Torre de la Pólvora
As you head down you will pass the Torre de la Pólvora or the Powder Tower is one of the minor small medieval Moorish defensive towers of Alcazaba. It receives its name because this tower is the place where the gunpowder used by artillery was stored. It will occasionally be open as part of the Alhambra’s “Space of the Month”. If it is pop in and have a look around.
The head down and enter the Jardín de Los Adarves.Read more about the Torre de la Pólvora
Garden of Adarves
The Jardín de Los Adarves or Garden of Adarves are beautiful gardens built on the Adarves or battlements of the castle.
The gardens has two water troughs filles with 3 water spouts from 1628. Among the fountains that can be seen in this garden, the one that stood on the bowl of the Fuente de los Leones in the Patio de los Leones until 1949.
As you pass under the Torre del Adarguero you head towards the exit.Read more about the Jardín de Los Adarves
Best Alhambra Tickets With Alcazaba Access
Getting to Alcazaba Granada
If you are already in Granada, you could take a walk down Cuesta de Gomérez from Plaza Nueva. The 15 minutes’ pleasant walk takes you to the Gate of Justice after passing through the woods.
If you are getting there by car, you will only be allowed to take the vehicle up to Paseo de la Sabica and then opt for paid parking nearby. You can also take a taxi to the Alhambra and then walk to the Alcazaba. The closest entrance would be from Torre Quebrada, which will take you the Torre del Homenaje next. This route will end your tour at Torre de la Vela and Plaza de Los Aljibes.
Bus C3 and C4 also take you to the Alhambra complex.
Alcazaba Granada Opening Hours
The Alhambra Monument is open every day except 25th December and 1st January. The general visiting hours for the Alhambra are as follows:
Visiting Alhambra between 15th October – 31st March
Monday – Sunday: 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM
Nasrid Palaces – Night session: (Fri to Sat) 8.00 PM to 9.30 PM
Generalife Palace – Night session: (Fri to Sat) 8.00 PM to 9.30 PM
Visiting Alhambra between 1st April to 14th October
Monday – Sunday: 8:30 AM to 8.00 PM
Nasrid Palaces Night session: (Tuesday – Saturday) 10.00 PM to 11.30 PM
Generalife Palace and Gardens – Night session – 1st April – 31st May: (Tues to Sat) 10.00 PM to 11.30 PM
Generalife Palace – Night session – 1st Sept – 14th Oct: (Fri to Sat) 10.00 PM to 11.30 PM
Tips For Visiting The Alcazaba
- Buy your Alcazaba entrance tickets online and well in advance. The Alhambra attracts the most number of tourists in this part of the country and you wouldn’t want to miss out.
- Remember that the time mentioned on your tickets are for Nasrid Palace visit. Start with the palaces and then come to the Alcazaba to make sure you have enough time.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes or sandals. Suntan and hat are a must in the Summer.
- There are steps so the Alcazaba is not suitable if you have mobility issues. If you’re fit, climbing to the top of the The Candle Tower for the terrific views of Sierra Nevada. The views are especially beautiful around sunset.
- Read up about the Alcazaba and the Alhambra in general to enrich your visit. There are many articles available to quench your thirst for knowledge.
- Be prepared to be surrounded by other tourists. The Alcazaba complex is large and has some interesting parts which are missed most tourists. Head to those places first and return to see the more famous ones later.